Cuba is five hours behind GMT and observes daylight saving hours over the summer, meaning during that time the difference is reduced to four hours behind GMT.
Cuba uses two currencies; the Cuban Peso (CUP) is the "national currency" and is used only by Cubans. Tourists use the convertible peso (CUC) and one CUC = 25 CUP approximately. CUC denominations are one, three, five, 10, 20, 50 and 100. CUC is a closed currency and therefore cannot be purchased before travelling to Cuba.
It is also a largely cash-based country; cards are generally accepted in bigger resorts and debit card acceptance is on the rise, albeit still not commonplace. You will be heavily taxed for exchanging US dollars so it’s better to take sterling and exchange when you’re out there. Banks open generally from Monday to Friday, from 09:00 to 15:00 (they close at noon on the last Friday of the month). Exchange bureaus (Cadeca) are open Monday to Saturday from 09:00 to 18:00, and sometimes from 09:00 am to noon on Sunday.
Electricity and Plugs
110 volts in general (but sometimes 220 in hotels of international chains). Cuba uses the two flat-pronged plug (although not always) so it’s best to take a universal adapter.
Museums close on Mondays and provincial museums close at lunch time (they are often open late). Usually pharmacies are open Monday to Saturday from 08:00 to 20:00, although they’re generally poorly stocked so it’s worth taking some first aid supplies with you. Shops are closed during the ‘cambio de turno’ (personnel changes) and it may take ten minutes to an hour for them to open again. Most shops are closed on Sunday afternoon.
The media landscape in Cuba is, as you might expect, very much under the control of the state; journalists risk harassment and detention for publishing anything other than the party line. The internet is a growing source of ‘independent’ news in Cuba, although in reality online access is tightly controlled, very expensive and amounts to a ‘closely monitored Cuban intranet’ according to US-based NGO, Freedom House. In terms of newspapers, Granma is the Communist Party newspaper and is available in English. For those who prefer their news online, the Union of Young Communists’ paper, Juventud Rebelde, is available online in English. Access to foreign media, meanwhile, is tightly controlled.
Cuban post is not renowned for its reliability (that’s if you can actually find a post office) and it can take months rather than weeks for a letter to reach Europe. Most hotels will have postal services should you require them.
To phone Cuba from the UK, add 00 53 to the front of the number you’re dialling (removing the first zero from the number you’re dialling). To call the UK from Cuba, use 00 44 before dialling the number (again, without the first zero). It’s worth noting that international calls from Cuba are extremely expensive.
Internet & Mobile Coverage
3G and 4G does exist in Cuba but it’s patchy. For WiFi access you’ll need to buy a scratch card and be located in a WiFi hotspot, and the internet will be slow and unreliable. Mobile coverage depends largely on your operator so check with them before travel.